Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin
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Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte adjust to fewer events in Rio

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Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte will be busy in the pool at the Rio Olympics. Just not as busy as they wanted to be.

The two popular stars from the U.S. swimming team four years ago in London have just three individual events between them in Rio, hardly the frenetic schedule they’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

Four years ago, Franklin swam four individual events and three relays, while Lochte had three individual events, plus two relays. Together, they won 10 medals.

This time, neither will defend their Olympic titles in two events. Franklin failed to qualify for the 100-meter backstroke at the recent U.S. trials, while Lochte, bothered by a groin injury, didn’t make the team in the 400 individual medley.

The perpetually upbeat Franklin put a positive spin on her reduced schedule that will give her more time in the stands cheering on her teammates.

“I’m still a second-time Olympian, I get to go to Rio, I get to be a part of this team,” she said.

Franklin’s seventh-place finish in the 100 back at trials had her in the unusual position of publicly working through major disappointment.

“You have this idea in your head that everyone’s careers are perfect all the time, and as soon as yours starts to waver a little bit you start wondering, ‘Oh my goodness, why is this happening?'” she said. “You sort of start to realize no one has the perfect career, no one makes every team in every event that they want to.”

At 17, Franklin was one of the biggest stars at the London Olympics, competing in seven events and winning four gold medals and a bronze. Away from the pool, she didn’t cash in right away since she wanted to compete collegiately.

After two years at California, Franklin turned pro last year, setting up major endorsement deals heading into Rio. She’s found it challenging balancing training with accommodating sponsors’ demands for photo shoots, commercials and appearances.

“It’s fun, absolutely, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard,” she said. “It’s definitely more to juggle than what I had to in 2012. I definitely have some days when I wake up and I’m more tired than normal.”

Also making it difficult is Franklin’s inclination to please others, sometimes at her expense. She’s had to learn to say no and not feel guilty.

“She will literally look at somebody and say, ‘Have you had enough pictures? I’m going to start my practice now,'” her coach Todd Schmitz said. “I stand there and go, ‘Good, yes.’ I’ve always told her I will be the bad guy every single time, but I can’t always be there.”

But, while Franklin has more money in her pocket, it’s been a struggle to regain the form that made her the world’s most dominant female swimmer — a title ceded to fellow American Katie Ledecky.

“One of the things I’ve been trying to do this whole year is not compare myself to where I was in 2012,” said Franklin, who returned home to Colorado to train with Schmitz. “I came in here to be the best of who I am right now, not who I was four years ago.”

Franklin will be competing in the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke in Rio, while Lochte swims the 200 IM. Both qualified to swim on the women’s and men’s 800 free relay.

Lochte turns 32 on Aug. 3, two days before the games open. He has 11 career medals going into his fourth Olympics.

“It’s a lot harder because I’m older,” he said. “I can’t put my body through certain practices or sets that I used to be able to do.”

In London, Lochte won the 400 IM on the first day of the eight-day competition, and then made what he called his biggest mistake of the games.

“I didn’t do the right recovery process after that win because I was just like, ‘Screw this, I’m happy,'” he recalled. “I think that kind of hurt me throughout the meet. Now that I’ve gotten more mature, I’m listening to my body more.”

He’s also listening to coach Dave Marsh, who will oversee the U.S. women’s team in Rio. After London, Lochte relocated his training base to Charlotte, North Carolina, and cut back his partying lifestyle in favor of more time in the pool.

“When he’s in the water working hard, he’s probably his most happy,” Marsh said.

After Rio, Franklin will return to college. Lochte is likely to keep swimming, as long as he’s still having fun.

“I said the day you finish is the day you’re going to meet up with a girl and have grandchildren,” his mother Ike Lochte said. “He just laughs at me.”

MORE: Move over Phelps: Two women entered in most swim events in Rio

Olympic Swimming Trials reveal where U.S. stands versus world

Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky
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No one stat can sum up the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials and American hopes for the Rio Games, but here’s an interesting note:

One world record was set during the Olympic Trials from June 26-July 3, but it was not broken in the CenturyLink Center pool in Omaha. Australian Cate Campbell lowered the 100m freestyle standard in Brisbane.

No world records fell at the U.S. Trials for a second straight time, not shocking given half of the world records in the 26 individual Olympic events are from the super-suit era of 2008 and 2009.

At the 2015 World Championships, the U.S. earned its fewest medals in Olympic swimming events at an Olympics or worlds in 50 years. It still stood atop the gold- and overall-medal standings, but as Trials proved again last week, the rest of the world is as competitive as ever.

Five thoughts off the Swimming Trials with an eye toward Rio:

1. Scarcity of Gold

If the Olympic swimming results copy the current world rankings, the U.S. would earn six individual golds and 23 individual medals in the Rio pool. The 23 medals is right on average during the Michael Phelps era, but six golds would cut the London 2012 total in half.

The six U.S. swimmers who are fastest in the world this year:

Katie Ledecky (200m freestyle)
Katie Ledecky (400m freestyle)
Katie Ledecky (800m freestyle)
David Plummer (100m backstroke)
Josh Prenot (200m breaststroke)
Lilly King (100m breaststroke)

Notice that Michael Phelps is not on this list. For as impressive as Phelps was at Trials, he ranks second, second and sixth in the world this year in his three events. He led the world rankings in those events last year.

2. Mixed Results for Big Four

Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky pretty much took care of business in Omaha. Phelps won all three of his events (100m and 200m butterflies and 200m individual medley). Though he skipped the 100m and 200m freestyles, he is expected to be chosen for the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays in Rio given his form last week and his experience on those teams.

However, Phelps’ best times in his three events this year are significantly slower than his best times from 2015 — .55 slower in the 100m butterfly, 1.16 slower in the 200m individual medley and 1.91 slower in the 200m butterfly. In 2008 and 2012, Phelps was faster at the Olympics than at Trials, but never by a half-second in the 100m fly or a full second in the 200m fly or 200m IM.

Ledecky swept the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in typical dominating fashion. The question going into Trials was how Ledecky would fare in the 100m freestyle, not a wheelhouse event. Ledecky was seventh in 53.99 seconds, which was .24 slower than her personal-best time from Jan. 15. If Ledecky repeated that personal best in Omaha, she would have tied for third and guaranteed herself a place on the 4x100m free relay. Now, we wait and see what the coaches decide.

Of the Big Four, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin entered Trials with the most to prove. Lochte, injured throughout his decorated career, overcame a groin pull in his first swim of the meet to make the team in the 200m individual medley and the 4x200m free relay. His schedule in Rio (potentially five swims) will be far lighter than in London (13 swims), and at 31 years old, these are looking like his final Games.

Franklin, a four-time 2012 Olympic champion and six-time 2013 World champion, was not injured in Omaha, but she had not been the same swimmer since suffering back spasms at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships. After missing the team in her first event, the 100m backstroke, a concerned Franklin stated a bare-minimum goal — “I just need to make the team.”

Swimming under that kind of pressure for the first time in her career, Franklin summoned second-place finishes in the 200m backstroke and 200m freestyle. She must improve greatly to earn individual medals in Rio, as she is ranked Nos. 9 and 11 in those events in the world this year.

3. The Rise of DiRado

Three swimmers made the Olympic team in three individual events — Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, as expected, but also Maya DiRado. Looking at times from the last year, DiRado’s sweep of the 200m and 400m individual medleys and the 200m backstroke was no surprise.

But to those who follow the sport more on the once-every-four-years basis, DiRado is a new name. She finished fourth in the 200m and 400m IMs at the 2012 Olympic Trials at age 19, then made the team for the 2013 Worlds, 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and 2015 Worlds, earning medals at each meet.

In Rio, DiRado will be an underdog in all three of her individual events but a solid medal contender. Her world rankings for 2016:

200m back — fourth
200m IM — third
400m IM — fifth

4. Most Rookies Since 2000

Not since Michael Phelps‘ first Games has the U.S. Olympic swimming team included this many rookies.

There are 30 in the pool and in all but four individual events (men’s 50m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley and women’s 200m freestyle).

How the young members handle their first Games is unknown. In some instances, Olympic rookies have risen to the occasion (Misty HymanRebecca Soni, Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky are recent notables). The Rio Games being in a more familiar time zone than the past four Olympics should help.

5. Farewell, Gold Medalists

The Trials likely marked the end of Olympic careers for Natalie CoughlinMatt Grevers and Cullen Jones and definitely for the retiring Tyler Clary, all Olympic gold medalists.

Coughlin, the headline U.S. female swimmer in 2004 and 2008, made a valiant bid at age 33 to make her fourth Olympic team but finished seventh and 14th in two events. If she had made the Rio team, Coughlin could have broken her tie with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for the most Olympic medals earned by a U.S. woman (12).

Grevers had a better shot at the Olympic team than Coughlin, but he lost out in a three-man race for two 100m backstroke spots. Grevers took 2012 Olympic and 2013 World titles and the 2015 World bronze medal in the event, but David Plummer and Ryan Murphy swam the fastest times in the world this year at Trials. Grevers is ranked No. 4 in the world, but No. 3 in the U.S. Cruelly, no Olympics.

Jones and Clary, training partners in Charlotte, finished third in their primary events — 50m freestyle and 200m backstroke.

MORE: Connor Jaeger, Abbey Weitzeil end Olympic Swim Trials with wins

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte go 1-2 in last showdown before Rio Olympics

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Matching each other stroke for stroke, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte surged to the wall in almost perfect sync.

Phelps got there first, just ahead of the guy who’s pushed him hard for more than a decade.

It was like so many races they’ve had before.

There’s one more to go in Rio.

In the latest epic of their longtime rivalry — and billed as the last showdown in their home country — Phelps edged Lochte in the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials Friday night.

SWIM TRIALS: Video | Results | Broadcast Schedule

“Ryan and I always have a great race with one another,” said Phelps, who plans to retire again after his fifth Olympics. “When we race each other, we bring each other to a different level.”

Phelps led from start to finish, but Lochte was right with him all the way. In fact, he seemed to pull even midway through the final lap, but the most decorated athlete in Olympic history managed to get to the wall in 1 minute, 55.91 seconds.

Lochte was next at 1:56.22 and had no complaints about the consolation prize: his only individual race at the Olympics.

“I knew going into this race it was definitely going to be a dogfight to the end,” Lochte said. “It’s been a long journey, but the journey’s not over. We still have another month to get ready and show the world that the U.S. is number one.”

Lochte, an 11-time medalist, injured his groin on the very first day of the meet, struggled in his next few races and was down to his final chance to get a swim of his own at the Summer Games.

Now, that’s out of the way, which means Phelps and Lochte will get another crack at each other in South America.

As a three-time defending gold medalist in the 200 IM, Phelps will be the favorite.

But he knows Lochte won’t be far behind, especially with a month to get over the groin issue.

“I don’t know of another person in this world who brings out the best in me like he does,” said Phelps, who has 18 golds and 22 medals overall. “Neither one of us likes to lose.”

Phelps and Lochte actually had their first encounter on the way to the deck. Lochte, walking out right behind Phelps, stepped on the back of his sneaker.

“I gave him a flat tire by accident,” Lochte said. “He’s like, ‘What are you doing, trying to mess me up?’ I was like, ‘No, no, no.'”

All was forgiven when it was over, Phelps and Lochte holding up their arms together on the deck while the sellout crowd roared.

It was the end for another defending Olympic champion.

Tyler Clary finished third in the 200 backstroke and called it a career, having missed out on a chance to defend the gold he won in London. He finished behind California Aquatics teammates Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley, who earned the two spots for Rio.

Murphy grabbed the lead on the second lap and pulled away to win easily in 1:53.95, completing a sweep of the backstroke events.

Pebley held on for the second spot, touching in 1:54.77 to earn his first trip to the Olympics.

Clary was next at 1:55.33. He clung to a lane rope while Murphy and Pebley celebrated, before swimming over to congratulate them both.

“That’s it,” Clary said. “I couldn’t be happier to be sending Team USA off with two backstrokers that I have a lot of respect for, and I know they are going to represent Team USA well in Rio.”

There was another sweep in the women’s breaststroke, where Lilly King added a 200 victory to her earlier triumph in the 100. The 19-year-old from Indiana won in 2:24.08, while Molly Hannis claimed the second Rio spot at 2:24.39, giving the U.S. team yet another Olympic rookie.

Then again, it wasn’t totally a night for the upstarts.

Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian were the top two qualifiers in the semifinals of the 50 freestyle. The 35-year-old Ervin led the way in 21.55, while Adrian was second quickest in 21.60. Both men are already on the team, with Ervin still seeking an individual event to go with his relay duty and Adrian set to defend his 100 free title from the London Games.

Don’t forget Cullen Jones, a silver medalist in this event four years ago. The 32-year-old was third quickest in 21.93.

Katie Ledecky’s bid to add another relay to her Rio program took a big blow when she finished seventh in the 100 freestyle. Abbey Weitzeil (53.28) and Simone Manuel (53.52), a pair of 19-year-olds heading to their first Olympics, earned the individual spots. Olympic veterans Amanda Weir, Lia Neal, Allison Schmitt and Dana Vollmer took the next four spots to put themselves at the head of the 4×100 free relay pool.

Ledecky will likely have to settle for three individual events and one relay at these games. Her sprinting still needs a bit of work.

“I would’ve loved to have gone faster, but I’ll take it,” she said.

Phelps has locked up two individual events for Rio, having already qualified in the 200 butterfly. He returned about 30 minutes after his victory over Lochte to post the sixth-fastest time in the semifinals of the 100 fly.

That was good enough to send Phelps to the final Saturday night — his final event of the trials.

Then it’s on to Rio, where one more race with Lochte awaits.

Missy Franklin advanced to the final of the 200-meter backstroke, giving her a chance to claim a second individual event in Rio.

Franklin won her semifinal heat at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in 2 minute, 8.63 seconds. She already qualified for the Olympics in the 200 free, while missing out in three other events that she qualified for in 2012.

The only one faster than Franklin was Maya DiRado, who touched first in the other semifinal heat in 2:08.14.

DiRado already swept the 200 and 400 individual medley, and now she’s positioned to claim a third individual race at the first and only Olympics of her career. The 23-year-old has lined up a job and plans to retire after Rio.

MORE: Natalie Coughlin misses Olympic team, not retiring